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Posts Tagged ‘lessons

Yesterday I recounted two examples of how administration disables when it should enable instead. Today I outline a recent incident and suggest how administrators can change for the benefit of all.

Recently one of the projects I had started working on stopped because administrative issues. Long story short: Old school rules were applied to new and uncertain efforts, and both my client and I have to start from the beginning.
 

 
After this happened, I had a chat with one of the administrators involved in the process. Her concerns were no different from the ones I have met before in my current line of work (education consultant) and former work (professor and head of department).

I made a few recommendations and I pick three of the best looking fruit.

  1. Change mindsets of your staff.
  2. Always ask why.
  3. Document meaningfully.

The mindset that needs to go away is the single-minded pursuit of efficiency and productivity, and living only by the letter of the law. It is the mindset of administration that disables by getting in the way. The old mindset needs to be replaced with one that enables by doing what is ethical and logical.

One way to change mindsets is to always ask why an existing policy exists and why someone the administrators are serving is frustrated or wants something done differently. Perhaps the old rules do not apply or the context has changed. Asking why first and taking a stakeholder’s perspective will help reveal the need for change.

Administrative offices are not immune to people that come and go. When people leave, they take their implicit knowledge and good practices with them. One way to prevent this is practising knowledge management, e.g., meaningful documentation.

This means turning what is internal to external forms, e.g., Google Doc records, departmental wikis, video interviews, etc. These references are not just useful for the induction of newbies, they help in the clarification of existing tasks by current staff.

If administrators do these, they might just turn the overused reset or panic button into a power button instead.
 

Thanks to my Twitter PLN, I chanced upon this tweet.

Both my immediate reaction and critical reflection was: Nope, this I don’t like.

I do not have anything against fidget spinners. I do not have anything against practice provided that it is designed based on sound principles, e.g., spaced repetition, interleaving. [1] [2] [3]

It is not enough for teachers to design with just good intent. Their decision-making and implementation must be informed by rigorous research and/or reflective practice.

One design issue discussed in Twitter was that the spinner was meant to be a timer. Spin it, then do as many sums as you can before it stops.

What if the variability of the spinning momentum (some more, some less) an issue?

Is the speed of completion the desired learning outcome?

How is the use of spinners justifiable?

What better alternatives in terms of strategies and tools are there?

I am all for starting with where the learner is at. But my caveat is that the starting point is not to pander. It is to build on prior knowledge or experience and to provide a meaningful challenge.

Teachers may feel the tug of their hearts because they love their students, but they must be led first by their heads. They must first be critically informed or they risk designing in a vacuum and establishing the wrong sort of expectations.

Thanks to YouTube’s algorithms, I discovered a talented musician named Andrew Huang.

This is the original 24K Magic music video by Bruno Mars.


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This is Andrew Huang’s take on the same song with carrots as instruments.


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His creativity stemmed from a challenge to recreate the song about 24 carats with 24 carrots.

There is much more of Huang’s work. The videos below are Can’t Feel My Face by The Weeknd and Huang’s version using instruments at his dentist’s office.


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This creative expression could have been a combination of making the ordinary less so and learning from a painful experience. You might not feel your face after receiving numbing agents from a dentist.

Huang is undoubtedly talented and we might pick up lessons on creativity. Creativity often:

  • originates from a challenge.
  • emerges from the mundane.
  • is a different way of looking at the same problem.

Creativity might also include being able to see useful links between different domains, e.g., entertainment and education, or personal and professional. 

 
My iPad has a cover that is hanging by its threads. The dust that the cover is supposed to protect the iPad from seems to be holding everything together!

Try as I might, I cannot find the good covers from a few years ago. Stores have flimsy knockoffs or ugly covers, and one online store directed me to a Korean supplier if I wanted a good brand.

I wondered why iPad covers were so difficult to find. Then I remembered some tweets and articles I read.

For example, this was the statistic on the now low reliance of tablets for web surfing.

If you follow the data, this drop seems to be trending over the last few years.

One of the hardest hit might be the iPad. A recent article revealed that the Chromebook was the rising king in US classrooms.

Why? Some answers are generic to any educational technology, but Larry Cuban provided some clues.

Trends like these sound and feel distant. How do these matter to a decision-maker in Singapore, for example?

First, it is important to at least be aware of the data and trends. These are not always objective truths because they are subject to interpretation, but analysing and evaluating these should be the minimum due diligence of any decision-maker.

Second, the centralised purchasing trends need to be juxtaposed with BYOD trends. If teachers and students already have their own devices, the context has changed and so must rules, policies, and purchasing decisions.

If decision-makers collect data in their own schools, they will realise that the BYOD devices tend to be phones, not slates or laptops. The phones are cheaper, lighter, convenient, and essential to learners and teachers alike.

Third, and most importantly, the devices (school-provided or BYOD) need to be custom-integrated into curricula, assessment, and context. What works in one academic subject or school may not transfer to another. And if assessment remains rooted in the traditional technology of pen and paper, there will be little incentive to change.

I doubt that many will draw such extensions and lessons from missing iPad covers. But I do because I reflect on what I read on my iPad about such matters. Now back to my hunt for a replacement cover…

Last year I outlined how the poorly designed McCafe app could be used to learn design principles. Missteps and mistakes are often the best sources of learning.

My StarHub is an app that I use to check my data consumption and it is a wellspring of lessons on how NOT to design a mobile app.

The app claims to let users customise what they see. Currently, there are four fixed cards and six selectable ones. The latter are selected by default.

One cannot actually customise as 1) there are fixed selections (including ads), and 2) if deselected, the optional cards return after restarting the app.

The people behind the StarHub app might have forgotten (or do not care) that the customer likes to customise. Perhaps they need to adopt a new custom and repeat it as a mantra.

The app also breaks the old web page three-click rule. This is the rule that states that a user should be able to find what they need within three mouse clicks. In the mobile app universe, this should be a one or two tap rule given the nature of the platform.

Once I open the app, I need to make six taps to know how much data I have consumed in detail. I need to tap on:

  1. My Account.
  2. Mobile usage.
  3. The filter option (I manage and pay for my family’s numbers and mine does not appear by default and I have no option to choose my mobile number as default.)
  4. My number in the filter.
  5. The done button.
  6. Data usage to view current usage.

The app offers a minimalist graphic on main page that looks nice, but 1) it does not always appear, 2) when it does, it sometimes happens after a delay, 3) it is not detailed enough for my needs.

All this puts form over function and the needs of the designers over that of the user. This makes for a terrible app experience and I am reminded of it every time I use it.

Designers of user interfaces should be familiar with the concept of user-centric design. I wish more were passionate about the practice of the same. This is particularly important for designers of educational apps, especially those that provide access to content and learning management systems. No one wants angry, frustrated, or anxious users even before the learning begins.

Today I share three videos I had in a YouTube playlist that hold lessons for those of us in schooling and education.
 

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The lesson is not so much that what kids learn in school now is more complicated that what we had to learn when we were their age. It is that much of what we learn in schools is pointless and not memorable.
 
 

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You can combine the old with the new, but if the old is mindset or baggage while the new is tools or instruments, the old drive and determine what the new does. The outside looks flashy until you see the inside in action.
 
 

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You are never too old to try something new. You can choose to be stubborn or fearful or you can put yourself in a situation where you have to try. When you do, you might just surprise yourself and learn something new.

A fallacy is a popular or common misconception.

One PokémonGo fallacy is that the game is social. If it was, some people would not be able to complain about the PokémonGo zombies that seem to walk around blindly with their phones.
 

 
The game is not inherently social, but that does not mean that is not social at all. PokémonGo zombies are not the only species of players. There are boyfriend-girlfriend pairs, friends in small groups, family units, and friendly fans.

I spotted one boyfriend-girlfriend pair embracing at a mall while looking over their shoulders at their phones and flicking at Pokémon. They caught each other and were catching PokémonGo while out on a Poké date. This blog does not discuss any other form of poking.

The friend and family units are common too, especially at parks. They will chatter about strategies, alert one another about rare Pokémon appearances, share the joy of eggs hatching, and perhaps discuss the ethics of Pokémon recycling. Maybe not the last one.

The best social experiences are serendipitous.

My son and I were out one day to collect Poké balls at Poké stops when a Seel appeared on the game radar. As my son did not have one yet, he got excited. The problem was that we did not know exactly where it was.

I activated my Go Radar app, but before it could ping the Seel, a student who heard us talking about it ran over and asked us if we were Seel hunting. He then told us where he caught his.

I thanked him for telling us and we made our way to the site of the last Seel sighting. My son and I bagged a Seel each.

That student had information and shared it generously even though he did not need to. He did not hoard information just in case of some imaginary zombie apocalypse.

The lesson here is that it is good to share openly because there so much to give. And when you get, you need to give back in return. This might sound surprising, but some teachers need to be reminded of that.
 

 
Another lesson, particularly for teachers who wish to use PokémonGo for teaching content, is NOT to. Not in an uncritical way at least.

PokémonGo may be a fun hook, but it does not guarantee accurate information or critical thinking*. However, the very same fallacies it sells might be leveraged to teach content and model critical thinking.

For example, PokémonGo allows you to “evolve” a proto-Pokémon to a higher form. This is nowhere near any form of evolution in terms of concept or time. A better term might be “metamorphosis”, e.g., when a caterpillar becomes a butterfly. This is teaching by correcting fallacies, citing non-examples and examples, and sharing more accurate information.

The non-negotiable and more valuable aspect of doing this is teaching critical thinking. The concepts of evolution and metamorphosis may be forgotten, but the type and strategy of thinking must remain. This skillset is far more valuable than the content knowledge alone.

*If the point is to promote creative thinking, then knock yourself out by embracing the fallacies. Though it must be said that creative and critical thinking are better as co-joined twins.

Doduo


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